Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 16, 2012

State parks offering more recreational opportunities

Some groups say DNR should invest in upkeep instead

Special to the Record-Eagle

LANSING — Officials who run Michigan's state parks are ramping up recreational offerings.

Beginner kayaking, windsurfing, and even stand-up paddle boarding — what the Wall Street Journal recently referred to as the "fitness rage of the summer" — are just a few of the classes in Recreation 101, a program designed to get people into state parks.

Local outfitters volunteer their expertise and gear in beginner classes that also include archery, disc golf and orienteering.

"If you ever wanted to try something outside, but you don't have gear because it's expensive, or don't have someone to teach you, we offer expert instructors to show you how," said Maia Stephens, a Recreational Programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "The gear is provided so you don't have to worry about making an investment in something you don't know how to do."

Some groups aren't thrilled with the state's efforts. Go Get Outdoors, based in southeast Michigan, is devoted to the protection of the state's natural resources. Members believe the state parks need upkeep, not classes.

"The DNR has lost their focus," said Robert Golda, an avid hiker and the head of Go Get Outdoors. "They're focused on controlling everyone's recreation experience. I don't need them to tell me I should kayak. If I want to go, I'll find my own group and go do it."

Classes and the park entrance are free for residents with a recreation passport. The two-year-old passport program allows entry onto any state-owned land. Instead of the normal $24 a year park pass, people can sign up for a $10 recreation passport when they renew car registration.

The program encourages lifestyle and hobby changes, Stephens said.

Golda would rather see the parks maintain trails and remove invasive species — which he says is left up to volunteer groups like the Eagle Scouts.

For Sleepy Hollow park ranger Tim Machowicz, the new programs are part of a grass roots effort to rebuild Michigan's population of hunters and anglers. His park offers classes in archery and fishing.

Sara Matthews writes for Michigan State University's Capital News Service.